Earning to Learning
The shift from percentages to levels of learning will provide a pathway to intrinsic motivation and continuous improvement.
What do we really mean by Earning to Learning?
After school on any spring or summer evening you will see a group of 5 to 10 young people practicing skateboarding tricks along the sidewalks and on the vast expanse of tarmac of the parking lot outside one of our high schools. Many of these are the same grade 8 and 9 students whose attendance is poor and whose teachers report a lack of motivation and engagement in class. But night after night we see them spending hours attempting, and mostly failing, to master skateboarding tricks. At no point are they ‘rewarded’ with a grade, a certificate or a monetary award when they are able to successfully perform one of the tricks. What is it that motivates them and why do we less often see this level of engagement in the classroom? It’s certainly not because these tricks are easy to perform. In fact, these young people are working extremely hard.
In his book ‘Drive!’, Daniel Pink (2009) describes the things that motivate us. In numerous studies, providing financial or extrinsic rewards for higher cognitive skills actually leads to decreased performance. What he did find effective in motivating people was developing autonomy, mastery and purpose.
It is my belief that our young skateboarders demonstrate the essence of ‘Earning to Learning’. They are intrinsically motivated. The learning target is abundantly clear: performing the trick. They receive continuous feedback, in this case from their peers, and they have a clear idea of the progression of skills that will get them to performing at a higher level. There is an element of choice: there are several pathways to becoming a competent skateboarder.
I know that all teachers have, at various times, experienced the magic of a project, assignment or lesson where the students are highly engaged in the learning. When this happens the time seems to fly by, there is an excited buzz in the classroom, the students are working extremely hard, and no one is asking the teacher how many marks the assignment is worth.
How do we bring more of the skateboard park into our classrooms? This is already happening in Prairie Spirit. Teachers are helping students to identify clear learning targets, they are co-creating the criteria that describe quality, and they are providing opportunities for choice. They are providing, ongoing, specific feedback and opportunities for students to stretch their learning. Through powerful and real-world relevant learning experiences they are providing students with the purpose that will take them from earning to learning.
Earning to Learning – Where the goal and reward are the same.
Dave Carter – Prairie Spirit School Division – Dec 19, 2014